Clemson students continue to amaze. Their passion for their research, their peers and for their future work is inspiring. Below are the stories of just five of our incredible seniors. We wish them and all graduates the best in their future endeavors. Go Tigers!

More than 2,700 degrees will be awarded during May 2011 Commencement Ceremonies, which will be held at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on May 13 in Littlejohn Coliseum.

College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

Susie Irizarry
Major: Environmental and Natural Resources, concentration in conservation biology

A chance summer class led Susie Irizarry to an internship and a future career focus she’s passionate about.

After graduation Irizarry will head to Yosemite National Park in California where she’ll spend three months researching and working. Then she’ll trade boots for heels and will be a congressional intern in Washington, D.C., for the final three months of her Unilever National Parks Congressional Internship.

“I wanted to take this year and get out of my shell a little bit and challenge myself,” said the South Florida native.

Coming to Clemson’s campus as a high school student, Irizarry and her family were blown away by the National Scholars program, which was recruiting Irizarry. The campus preview weekend sealed the deal for them, and she headed north.

Since arriving she studied abroad, joined a sorority and campus groups, did research, finished third in the 2010 homecoming pageant, was a campus tour guide and was the student guest speaker for the kickoff event for the Will to Lead capital campaign.

“A lot of stuff I’ve gotten involved with I never would have imagined doing in high school,” Irizarry said.

A love of U.S. national parks led her to sign up for a summer class that visited numerous sites, and its impact on her life and career was almost immediate.

“The Park Service employees are people who love nature and also love to work with other people — and that’s who I am,” she said.

One day maybe she’ll be overseeing one of the country’s national parks.

College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities

Brad Saad
Major: Philosophy

Brad Saad sees himself in academia, thinking, researching and teaching. For the next few years, he’ll delve further into the academic work as he pursues his philosophy Ph.D. at Brown University.

As he leaves Clemson, he’ll take with him memories of discussions with professors and peers that transformed the way he thinks about the world, how to live and what to believe.

“I was a frequent office-hours visitor and had a chance to learn under smart and genuine professors who really cared about their subject and students,” Saad said.

Saad — who came to college as a psychology major — decided to study philosophy early in his Clemson career after taking a couple of classes with inspiring and challenging philosophers.

“I fell in love with it. My professors often taught with the Socratic method — using questions to guide students through a topic — which was really engaging,” he said.

The Greenville native will head to Providence, R.I., with a full five years of funding and lots of support and memories from the Clemson Family.

In his proudest Tiger moment, Saad and his Ethics Bowl teammates came in second place in the national competition in 2009. For eight weeks they researched and prepared arguments to use in response to questions about real-world circumstances involving ethical dilemmas.

He’ll continue to explore questions and pursue answers as he begins his next chapter, maybe one day even returning to Clemson as a philosophy professor. You never know.

College of Business and Behavorial Science

Hannah Peach
Major: Psychology

Hannah Peach would like to see people enjoying life more.

“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, and there are so many ways it can be fixed through lifestyle,” said the energetic psychology major who jumped right into research when she came onto campus, not really knowing what it entails.

She began working with a grad student on his dissertation research. From there Peach searched out psychology Professor James McCubbin, whose research on stress and health piqued her interest.

For her honors thesis, Peach took one of the professor’s data sets and looked at whether high blood pressure affects a person’s memory. She presented her findings at the American Psychosomatic Society conference in 2010 and again at the 2011 ACC Meeting of the Minds undergraduate research conference, and she has an upcoming opportunity to be published.

“It was a lot of work for an undergraduate, but it was an amazing opportunity; it was Ph.D.-level work, really,” said Peach, who would love to pursue full-time research one day.

To avoid early graduation, Peach took on two campus jobs — both with opportunities to further her research skills — in her final two semesters. After receiving her diploma, she’ll head to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to begin a Ph.D. program on health psychology.

“Dr. McCubbin has gone so over and above in working with me. I don’t think I would have had any idea of what to do after graduation without his and other professors’ support and encouragement,” she said.

With a lot of support behind her and a full five years of funding available to her when she arrives in Charlotte, Peach is definitely enjoying life.

College of Engineering and Science

Herb Grant
Major: Mechanical Engineering

Herb Grant is about to start a new chapter in his life — one where his calculations can’t be wrong.

Regardless of the pressure, the mechanical engineering major is excited about beginning full-time work at Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee. He spent four months interning in the same lab in 2010. When he left, his boss told him they’d be extending him a job offer when he graduated.

And they did.

“The experience working there was amazing,” he said. “It is such a diversified company. I can go into this department and in six months could be doing something different.”

Getting his undergraduate degree at Clemson has shown him how to solve a problem.

“I think problem solving is the biggest skill I acquired at Clemson. I know how to approach a problem and how to work through it,” Grant said.

For two years, Grant was heavily involved in the campus National Society of Black Engineers and could often be found at the Union bowling alley on campus, where he worked for four years.

Overall, Clemson has simply allowed him to grow and determine who he is, what he stands for and why. Knowledge the mentor and first-generation college student passed on to freshmen in the Programs for Educational Enrichment and Retention (PEER), which works with minority College of Engineering and Science students to help prepare them for a career in an engineering or science related field.

“Leaving, I have a better understanding of the kind of things I like, things I want to do, and any fears and admirations. Clemson really got me to where I am,” he said.

College of Health, Education and Human Development

Patricia Mamona
Major: Health Science

Soon after graduation, Patricia Mamona will be competing in the Olympics. Hopefully after that — medical school.

She’ll be coming full circle, of sorts, as she actually left medical school in her home country of Portugal to come to Clemson to compete in the triple jump in track and field. School is much different in Portugal than in the United States, and it didn’t allow Mamona time to compete in the sport she loves so much.

At Clemson, it’s a different story.

“I have had so much support (at Clemson) academically. My professors have been understanding about me being gone (for track meets) Wednesday through Sunday nights,” she said. “I’m really glad I came here. We don’t have that kind of support at home.”

Mamona has become not only a standout in the classroom, but also on the track. In 2010 she won the NCAA championship in the outdoor triple jump. This season she is ranked second nationally and will defend her title in June. She recently jumped 46 feet, 2.75 inches at home to break her own school record, as well as the Rock Norman facility record.

Everything wasn’t always easy for the soft-spoken senior. Her time at Clemson started roughly as she struggled with English and considered returning to her home country. But she decided to stick it out, and ended her second semester with a 4.0, a great group of friends and a brighter outlook.

“Graduation is such a relief,” she said. “It’s so funny, time passes so fast. Just a couple years ago I was a freshman scared of everything, and now I’m giving advice to others.”

But before she hits the books again in hopes of one day becoming a doctor, she’ll compete on a national stage, representing her home country of Portugal and going for gold.